, Michael Hicks, head of history at the University of Winchester, and Martin Biddle, archaeologist and director of the Winchester Research Unit, raised concerns about the DNA testing, radiocarbon dating and damage to the skeleton.Biddle also notes that the team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester is yet to make excavation field records publicly available.
While the location of the grave in the former site of the Grey Friars priory matches information provided by John Rous, an associate of Richard’s, Hicks notes that “lots of other people who suffered similar wounds could have been buried in the choir of the church where the bones were found”. In this case, it covers a period of 80 years.” Hicks raised concerns, too, about the prominence given to DNA testing in claims about the identity of the remains.
He also queried the project’s use of radiocarbon dating, which dates the bones to the period of Richard’s death. “Mitochondrial DNA is traced through the maternal line, and does not change over time,” he said.
“Therefore, the DNA match from the Leicester skeleton could equally be the result of the bones being those of someone descended in the female line from Richard’s mother, Cecily Neville, including her two daughters.
"It could also be those traceable from the other daughters of Cecily’s mother, Joan Beaufort, any daughters of her grandmother Katherine Swynford, and so on.
“Joan Beaufort had 16 children, which made her the ancestor of much of the nobility of the Wars of the Roses – quite a few of whom died violently in those conflicts.
There is some scientific debate about the accuracy of matching mitochondrial DNA in this way, but even if it is precise in this case, I’d argue it does not pinpoint these bones as Richard’s.“I’m not saying that it’s Richard – it’s perfectly conceivable that it is – but we are not in a position to say with any confidence that it’s him.Similarly, while the curved spine suggests the skeleton is Richard’s, the presence of scoliosis does not represent conclusive proof."Indeed, it is very hard to prove that the skeleton belongs to a specific person.The Leicester team themselves acknowledge that it’s extremely rare for archaeologists to find a known individual, let alone a king.” Professor Biddle, emeritus fellow of medieval archaeology at the University of Oxford (pictured below), also raised concerns.“While some evidence has been presented in peer-reviewed journals, it’s the field records from the dig we need to see,” he said.